Umai Crate – November 2016 Review

Umai Crate is a monthly subscription by the makers of Japan Crate that delivers a variety of instant noodles to your door.  They include several varieties of noodles, like ramen, udon, or yakisoba, originating from lots of different countries.

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$25/month with free shipping in the US.  International shipping available.

Umai also offers 3, 6, and 12 month pre-pay subscriptions, with discounts that increase for longer subscriptions.

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Umai Crate includes a fun and colorful zine in each box.  They are read in the Japanese manga-style from left to right, and include lots of helpful information.

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There is always a spread describing every product in the box, along with instructions for how to prepare the noodles.  They also give recommendations for toppings to pair with each one, since traditional ramen comes with lots of goodies like vegetables, bamboo slices, or a marinated egg.

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The zine also has fun facts about the noodles included, and recipe suggestions if you’re feeling ~extra fancy~.

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Nissin Demae Iccho XO Sauce Seafood Flavor – $1.99 

This was a BIG bowl of ramen!  I was very full afterward.  It was also very delicious!  The seafood broth was creamy and salty, and the fragrance reminded me a lot of shrimp chips.  I’m not 100% sure what XO sauce is supposed to taste like, but there was a little packet of it and the brown sauce gave it the slightest heat and kick without actually crossing the territory into “spicy.”  There was also a vegetable topping that included seaweed, carrots, fish cake, and corn.  All in all, this ramen was a win!

Dragonfly Instant Noodles Seafood Flavor – $5.00?

Subscribers could have received these noodles in either the seafood flavor (which I got), or the pork ribs flavor.  I couldn’t find a price for this online, but it’s a pretty hefty bowl so I’d guess around $5.  I really wanted to like these, but they weren’t really for me.  The broth smelled wonderful, with the kind of nice briny-ness you expect from seafood, but when I tasted it, it was very watered down.  Even though I followed the instructions and added water only up to the indicator line, I think it could have done with a lot less.  Inside the bowl along with the noodle block, there was a packet of dried vegetables, a soup base packet, a little plastic fork (cute, and very practical for on-the-go), and a seasoning packet.  I added the full amount of each packet, but I think there was too much of the seasoning for one bowl: my broth came out very oily.  The noodles themselves were thin, wavy, and not as chewy – it seemed like the cheaper kind of ramen.

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Myojo Chukazanmai Oriental – $1.99 

Myojo Chukazanmai strikes again!  They’ve included this brand in every box so far, but in different flavors.  I actually don’t mind, because their noodles are great.  They don’t flash fry them, so the texture is a little more authentic.  The zine says that this broth has a garlic and sesame flavor, which I can definitely taste.  I like it!  It seems lighter than most broths, but it doesn’t lose flavor or creaminess.  I think I just prefer lighter flavors like garlic or sesame over beef or seafood.

Daikoku Kitsune Udon – $5.00?

This udon tasted a lot like the kitsune udon they sent out in August, but it’s a different brand.  Kitsune udon is characterized by a salty-sweet dashi broth, thick noodles, and a piece of aburaage (fried) tofu.  This was easy to prepare: just add the seasoning packet, and pour in boiling water.  The broth had a nice salty flavor, and the noodles were chewy and light.  The star was the fried tofu, which soaked up the broth really well and added its own sweet flavor to every bite.  I’m a fan of kitsune udon!

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JML Beef and Sour Pickled Cabbage Noodles – $1.11 

I was very happy to see this included in the box, because it’s quite different than typical instant ramen.  This looks to be a Chinese brand, which makes sense because pickled cabbage is a typical Chinese side dish.  One of my favorite traditional soups actually consists of a delicate fish broth peppered with pickled cabbage.  For these noodles, the tart sourness of the cabbage balances out the creaminess of the beef broth, while adding a quite a bit of heat (pickled cabbage is usually also preserved with some dried chili pepper).  This packet contained a noodle block, a soup base packet, a spice paste packet, and a separate packet of cabbage.  It’s a wonderfully unique addition to the box, and I really enjoyed it, although I do think it’s probably a bit of an acquired taste and might not be for everyone.

Itomen Tamanegi Shoyu Ramen – $2.00?

This is a shoyu broth ramen flavored with onion!  In addition to the ramen block and soup powder, it even came with a little packet of dried onion flakes to add as garnish.  The broth itself was quite salty, but there was a little extra sweetness from the onion flavor.  At first it tasted a little bit like onion rings or Funyuns, but after a while the typical fresh onion taste came through.  This was pretty unique: I’ve never seen a ramen that put onion as its main focus before.  I’m a big fan of onion though, so I liked this ramen, but I definitely recommend a mint after eating!

Mamee Chef Curry Laksa Flavour – $2.50 

And continuing with Umai Crate’s exploration of Asian countries, this is a Malaysian brand that tastes of laksa curry.  Laksa curry is a Malaysian coconut curry flavored with “laksa paste,” a mixture of lemongrass, chilies, shrimp, turmeric, and all sorts of other spices.  This ramen consisted of a noodle block, a vegetable packet, a soup base, and a packet of laksa paste.  The soup base packet was actually divided into two separate packets, each containing a different powder.  I’m no expert, but they smelled like two different types of curry.  The vegetable packet contained a little spring onion, some dried chilies, and bits of fried tofu.  The broth had an intense curry flavor, and its mild heat was balanced nicely by the coconut milk.  It got a little gritty at the end with some undissolved powder, and the fried tofu wasn’t a good addition (it wasn’t preserved well, so it was tasteless with a Styrofoam-y texture).  Aside from that though, it was an interesting and different taste, and one that I would definitely try again.

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Bonus Item: Black and Silver Chopsticks

This month’s extra item is a pair of black and silver chopsticks.  These looked very sleek, and had a nice weight to them so the silver ends didn’t feel cheap.  I can always use more chopsticks at my house, and these look like they will last a long time.  They came in a plastic wrap with no care instructions, but I’ve run them through the dishwasher on the top shelf and they came out fine.

 

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this box.  The value I calculated came out to $19.59, not including the bonus item chopsticks.  That’s quite low considering the price, and it’s probably not accurate seeing as how I had to guess for quite a few items.  I did enjoy a lot of the products included this month.  I even went out and bought more of the beef and pickled cabbage noodles!  I love that I get to try a lot of different kinds of noodles that I normally wouldn’t find or buy, and I do think that the overall cost is probably cheaper than if you were to try and buy the noodles individually (all prices listed are for bulk purchasing).  However, there were quite a few repeats, like the Myojo Chukuzanmai that shows up in every box, and the kitsune udon that we’ve had before (albeit a different brand).  I hope Umai Crate can start to include even more variation in the next box!

 

Purchased.  All opinions are my own, and no compensation was received for this review.  This post may contain affiliate links.

Vicki

I'm a researcher for a pharmaceutical company in Maryland. Most of my money goes toward spoiling my cat. The rest of it goes to subscription boxes.
Vicki

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